Chicago History

  • Chicago HauntsGhostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski
  • Chicago Portraits: Biographies of 250 Famous Chicagoans by June Skinner Sawyers. Armour, Swift, Cabrini, Capone, Daley, Disney, Fermi, Field, McCormick, Moody, Walgreen and many more. Photos, sketches, bios and anecdotes bring each one to life.
  • City of the CenturyThe Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald  L. Miller (The PBS DVD of the same name is outstanding as well.)
  • Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The national bestselling novel set in Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  Serial murder and political intrigue contrast with the building of the White City as Chicago prepares for its first World’s Fair. Seasoned throughout with famous names of the day.
  • Encyclopedia of Chicago by Grossman, Keating and Reiff. Exactly that: an encyclopedia featuring the names, dates, maps, architecture, history, culture and neighborhoods of this great midwestern metropolis.  Also available online at Over 1,100 pages of all you could ever want to know about our fair city.
  • Grand IllusionsChicago’s World’s Fair of 1893 by Harris, DeWit, Gilbert and Rydell. Lavishly illustrated with photos, sketches, drawings and postcards of this oh so temporary jewel in Chicago cultural history. Makes me wish I could have been  there myself!
  • The Great Chicago Fire by David Garrard Lowe.  All you need to know about the Great Chicago Fire, including first person accounts of those who were there!
  • The Great Chicago Fire by Robert Cromie. Even more about the Great Chicago Fire. Easy to read and well documented.
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Classic novel based on the appalling conditions of Chicago’s stockyards and meatpacking industry of the early 1900s. Its publication prompted then President Theodore Roosevelt to demand an investigation which led to the passage of  new Pure Food and Drug laws in the U.S.
  • To Print the News and Raise Hell: A biography of Wilbur F. Storey by Justin E. Walsh. Storey was the bombastic publisher of the Chicago Times in the late 1800s, one of the early “yellow journalists” of that era. Both his Chicago mansion and the Chicago Times building (now demolished) were built by my great-grandfather, Thomas Keating, a contractor and stone mason who learned his craft in Ireland. I’m hoping to find a few tidbits in this biography of Storey that might relate to my great-grandpa Keating.  If I do, there will be a post!
  • Lost Chicago by David Garrard Lowe. Financial, cultural and architectural history of the City of Big Shoulders. Mansions, train stations, churches, worlds fairs, and more generously illustrated with historical photos of the day.
  • The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City by Carl Smith. How 19th century urban planner, Daniel Burnham and the Commercial Club of Chicago worked together to lay the groundwork for the growth and development of the city we know today.
  • Pullman: An experiment in industrial order and community planning 1880-1930 by Stanley Buder. The rise and fall of the utopian model town erected by George Pullman for employees of his Pullman train car factory.
  • Sin and the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott. This New York Times Bestseller is a  quick, fun, and true account of  titillating times in late 19th century Chicago.
  • Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams. First person account by early 20th century social reformer Jane Addams. Covers the development of the  Settlement House she started in Chicago to aid immigrants acclimating to their  new country.

Copyright © 2011 Patricia Desmond Biallas

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